Dark Lies the Island: Stories

Kevin Barry's first novel, City of Bohane, won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and was widely praised for its anarchic vision of a futuristic Ireland. In Dark Lies the Island, the Irish writer offers 13 bleak but very funny stories that excavate the hapless predicaments of contemporary Irish couples (or, often, men).

A poet, romancing the Irish coast, buys an old inn and finds himself in gothic and sozzled isolation with malevolent locals and catastrophic weather. A middle-aged man tries, with ever-increasing desperation, to convince himself of the enduring perfection of his life while its façade crumbles. Two sinister old ladies search for a child of their own as they travel the countryside. "Beer Trip to Llandudno," a story about a group of middle-aged ale connoisseurs, won the Sunday Times Short Story Award; Hanif Kureishi praised it for being "funny and unexpectedly moving."

Barry's writing is a marvel: it is immoderate, probing, alive and lyrical, a cross between Roddy Doyle and Patrick McCabe. He plumbs his characters' lives and finds the nuances of everyday pathos and humor. "She searched the night for calm," he writes in the title story, a phrase that neatly captures the experience of many of his characters. They may not find calm, but they experience just enough flashes of joy to relieve the darkness. Dark Lies the Island is an exceptional collection by one of the most talented Irish writers of his generation. --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer

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